One No And Then Another

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

July 1, 2014

It didn't take me long to realize that the first half of my 20s was about learning how to say no when I needed to. That lesson carried with it the conviction that I am 100% replaceable. The fact is, if I don't do something, someone else most definitely will. If they don't, then it wasn't as important as it seemed.

Learning to say no without any guilt following me around afterwards was so freeing. I spent my teenage years saying yes to everything. I was always working or out with friends or playing sports and did my best to make sure I was spending plenty of time with my brothers and sister. In high school, my main group of friends and I split ways and I stopped playing sports at school. I took on a bunch of afternoon jobs and for a while I felt like an actual chicken with my head cut off.

When I started college, I realized something had to give. I couldn't do EVERYTHING well and doing what I did well was super important to me. So, I started evaluating priorities and long term goals and made some decisions. Saying no was very, very difficult at first. I always felt like I had to have a good reason for saying no and was always sharing that reason with whoever I had to disappoint.

Then, I realized...I didn't have to do that. There doesn't always have to be a "good" reason. Sometimes you can't. Sometimes you need that night at home to recharge. Sometimes one thing just outweighs another. Being able to say no without feeling guilty about it was one thing, being able to get past believing that I had to explain myself was something else entirely.

The two go hand in hand. Somehow, both became true of me. I learned to say no and explaining the why behind my decision was no longer a default. Lesson learned, things should be smooth sailing from here, right?

Not quite...

These days, I've put my finger on what's next. While the first half of my 20s was about learning to SAY no, the second half is proving to about being able to be TOLD no. It was really hard and it's not that it's getting easier, but I'm learning to think differently about it. When you get told no, you can't necessarily take it personally.

Sometimes, you DO need to hear the no and realize that you've got some work to do, but a lot of times, it's simply someone else evaluating their life and saying no because it's best for them. With every no I've said, it's rarely about the person who has asked for a yes and more about who I am and where I am and where I'm going in that moment. I need to grant the same right to the people whose yes I'm asking for.

It's not just people either. God also has a way of telling us no. It's easy to get excited about opportunities and possibilities and everything always falling into place. It's easy when what's meant to be is happening so clearly. Sometimes, what's meant to be takes a struggle. And I think it's a struggle when we push against the no He's already told us. Not necessarily foolishly either.

You meet someone who seems so nice and so you ask them to coffee or you try to plan a get together or you simply attempt to talk to them after church. It doesn't take you long to figure out that they're just not into it. It might be you or it might be them. You see a job opportunity and you go for it and the interview goes well and yet they pass you up. You pray for things to change and hearts stay exactly the same and maybe even grow colder and harder than you had seen in a long time. You see a car that seems worth looking at only to find out that it has been sitting so long that it won't even start.

Can you tell I'm in the thick of it? I've heard no so many times lately, both from the lips of people and from God Himself by way of stops He's been putting in my path, that each one that gets piled on top of the ones I've already heard comes close to sending me into hysterical laughter.

I know how to say no, but I'm still learning how to accept no as an answer. I'm not sure if you just brush it off and move on. I'm not sure how to tell when it's not a firm no and when it's a not yet. I'm not sure if you're supposed to know the difference or if you just move along either way without giving it a second thought.

I'm thinking the lesson here is in not giving up. The lesson being able to accept a no carries with it is being able to trust God. We trust Him to direct our path and we trust Him with the decisions other people make. It's difficult.

There was a day when saying no seemed impossible. Looking back on the years it took me to be able to do it so well is granting me hope that it's possible to do this well too.

I'm not sure how many more nos I'll have to endure. I'm not sure how much disappointment I'll have to get over. I only know that no matter what it looks like or seems like or feels like, God is taking me through life. He's teaching me how to respond and I'm confident that He won't give up.

In fact, I'll remember this decade as the one that taught me to look to Him.


Friday, May 18, 2018

May 15, 2018

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." So goes the opening line of the story we've all been so familiar with for generations. (If you're not a woman or haven't made it to certain classics just yet, that's the first sentence in "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen.) For a while now, I've been kicking around some words to make my own opener. 

After my most recent encounters where I comfort myself with the thought that people really do mean well and just forget to actually think sometimes, I've settled on my version of the sentence. It goes like this, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of a beautiful face, must be in want of a husband." I tend to make it a little more modern in my own mind, "It's a known fact that a single woman with a pretty face, must be after one thing, namely a husband." 

The last year has been rough for me in a way I didn't expect. It makes me feel like a jerk to admit it. At 27 years old, I thought the whole getting hit on thing would slow down. Talking about it makes me feel precocious. But, here's the deal...I've got to talk about it. 

The guys I can handle. It doesn't take me long to size them up and figure out what to do with them. What wears me thin is a guy who won't take an obvious no or who seems like serial killer material. If I know he's finagled his way into having a conversation with me, give me 10 minutes and I'll have him shot down and on the hunt for another pretty face to smooth talk. What I can't seem to handle are the well meaning people who are more disturbed by my singleness than I'll ever be. 

After the initial hand shaking and name swapping, people want to know three things: what you do, where you come from, and whether or not you're married. That's alllll well and good. Relationships begin through the discussion of those three topics. Some of the best stories and encounters come when people connect over their answers to those questions and the questions that follow. 

But. I can't tell you how many times people begin the conversation with the assumption that I'm married. When they find out that I'm not, they're dumbfounded and they're always quick to tell me why, "You're beautiful. You're really not married? You don't have any kids?" 

Have you figured out why I feel precocious here? On the one hand...I've never felt like any kind of supermodel. I'm so skinny it grosses my own Mother out and she's always riding my tail about it. On the other hand, my posture is terrible and I'm constantly contorting my body into the weirdest positions. And on yet another hand, I have so many freckles here, there, and everywhere that I'm amazed at my ability to keep track of the ones that have just shown up. Yeah, I've got a great smile. Thanks to spending half my childhood in braces. Yeah, my hair is pretty nice. If you don't look too closely at all the gray. And yes, I'm half leg. But, you guys...They're chicken legs. We're all harder on ourselves than we ever are on each other. Someday, I'll be 67 and men won't check me out or go out of their way to talk to me and women won't be doling out compliments. Someday, these days of graciously accepting well meaning comments and looks that make my skin crawl will be a distant memory. 

I realize that. 

What I'm trying to get at is that it's an actual predicament to be a single girl with a pretty face. 

I know I'm not alone. I know you've had the conversations with the gushing complimentors. I know you've dealt with the guys with the roving eyes. I know you've been questioned and smooth talked. Chances are you're more gracious about the whole thing than I am. 

Yes, I'm single. Yes, I must be some kind of pretty given people's reactions. Yes, I'm a woman of marriageable age. Yes, in the good old days I would have been married and had a house full of kids to my name by now. 

But, can we please not make our conversations about THAT? Please? 

Because here's the thing...I'm not married and I have no children for one reason: God doesn't want me to be. There isn't another reason. It has nothing to do with who I am or who I know or don't know or how I've handled past relationships.

I appreciate your care and your concern. I appreciate your interest. Or, at least, I'm trying to.

Single isn't something I need saving from. Pretty doesn't make good men fall at your feet. Please don't try to save me. Please don't expect me to be flattered. It might disturb you that I'm not in a hurry. It might disgust you that my attitude seems indifferent and rude and put-offish. I really am trying.

I'm trying to be polite. I'm trying to be gracious. I'm trying to smile without bursting into a fit of laughter. I don't want to join a singles group. I don't want to meet that great guy you know in a situation  you arranged that's just going to be weird for everyone involved. I'm not lonely. I'm not waiting on my life to begin. I'm not battling discontentment. I can talk to a guy and smile at him and care about him without expecting him to make me his wife.

If I'm meant to get married, I will. If I'm meant to raise kids of my own, I will. It won't be because I put myself out there. It won't be because I made sure my accomplishments were accentuated. It won't be because I finally managed not to strong arm someone who thought pursuing me was a good idea.  It will be because it was time.

If you need me, I'll be in the parlor with my girl Austen. There will be a cup of tea close by, ink stains on my hand, and a writing callous on my finger. I'll be chuckling to myself as I gaze out the window before lacing up my shoes to go for the long walk I always seem to be looking forward to. Someday, there might be a man sitting in a chair nearby and a stroller full of kids in front of me. If there is, it'll be because God said it was time.

Do me a favor? Join me on waiting on Him.

Finishing Our Courses

Sunday, May 13, 2018

August 9, 2014

I went to a memorial yesterday, the first in a good 10+ years. This particular one was for a friend of mine. Our last talk was a joking banter about learning to play the Banjo. It's strange the things that come to your mind sometimes.

He was only 23 and the whole service was dedicated to talking about his faith, his smile, the way he strove for excellence, and the role relationships played in his life. I've only known him for a few years. Seeing pictures from his childhood and then seeing and hearing the grief firsthand of a family who never got to say goodbye and who will live the rest of their lives missing him made it all more final than it was before. 

They played his voicemail greeting and a clip of him reading Scripture and songs that he sang. Hearing his voice fill the sanctuary one last time was surreal. We all sat looking at the screen, hearing his voice, and we let the tears flow. My tears were for his family and the people who knew him far longer and better than I ever did. For his mom and for his younger brother and sister. My tears were a reflection of the grief I've been carrying with me as my own family seems to be in a state of disintegration.

I know the posts around here have been heavy for quite some time. I know a lot of them have been vague. I've always said my hope for this space is that you will find something here that will brighten your day, encourage your soul, and give you a reason to praise God. That's still my hope. That's been my hope as I've written posts about all sorts of things and covered topics I'd rather not have addressed. 

As I sat with a sanctuary full of people reflecting on the life of one faithful brother in Christ whose life ended far sooner than any of us expected in a way that still seems so impossible, I did what everyone else was doing...I began to ponder the impact his life and death will have. I thought back on what it was like to know him and remembered the fun times we had and laughed over my first impression of him all over again. 

Death is a fact of life. One of my friends keeps saying, "what's done is done." That's all he has to say about the whole thing. For Christians, death is different. We have a hope in Christ that in our living and in our dying we will glorify God. And yet, we're never quite ready to say goodbye. 

What's done is done. He was born. He lived. He finished out his course here. The rest of us have courses of our own to finish. We'll carry his memory and his example and the same hope that was in him with us. It will sting for a while, especially when we look into eyes that are missing him most. 

We don't know what our courses will hold. We don't know how long they'll last. We'll make mistakes. We'll be so happy we'll cry and we'll face times of sadness that runs so deep the tears won't come. The hope we have will spur us on. The Helper granted to us will be there reminding us of the promises of God that are shaping our course. 

I've been making a royal mess of my course lately. Saying I'm sorry won't make it better. I can't will people to care and the fact that I feel like I have to makes me feel even more rotten than being tempted to believe that they don't. One thing I know is that the object of my course is to be made more like Christ. That's the glory of God in us. We can make it confusing and difficult as we struggle between who we were and who we are in Him. 

Song after song talk about how we're on our way to heaven and only passing through life on this earth. It's never been a secret that I'm more excited about what's next than any next this earth holds for me. It's because that next is certain, but you know what...The nexts here are too. 

Every next brings us closer to the God who calls us His own. They may be difficult. They may be a new version of an old struggle that nearly knocked us off our feet the last time around. They may be sweet. They may be our hopes and dreams realized in a way that truly is far better than we ever imagined. Our certainty comes from Him. 

He designs our courses for His glory and for our good so that when what's done is done, we'll be able to join Him in being convinced of that. 

May our hope in Him be strengthened by His grace. May right spirits be renewed in us by the testimony of His Word. May we live as those whose purpose is defined by God Himself. They are, you know. 

Our courses may be ours to finish, but they come from Him.